Ever optimistic, Cowboys fans believed the 2016 league-year would be one to remember. Two seasons prior, the franchise established itself as one of the better rosters from top to bottom, going 12-4 in the process. Romo, a multi-time Pro Bowler and the Cowboys’ unquestionable leader, had grown tired of his shortcomings in the postseason and appeared ready to put everything behind him.
However, the football gods were unkind to Romo as he suffered a fractured vertebral compression in Week 3 of the preseason in 2016, thus pushing Dak Prescott, their fourth-round rookie, to the front of the line.
As the season kicked off, Prescott took Dallas on an unforgettable ride, going 13-3. In the midst of their stellar regular season, Romo, after completing his lengthy rehab stint, was downgraded to the bench, where he would ultimately remain until he retired at the end of the season.
In the eyes of many, making the move to Prescott was a wise decision. Nevertheless, with a healthy sample size to look upon, has Prescott been better than Romo? The answer is no.
Although he invoked a sense of ambivalence, Romo was a flat-out better QB than Prescott from top to bottom. Keep reading as we dive into what made Romo a better signal caller than his eventual successor.
#1 Two completely different defenses
Throughout much of Dak Prescott’s career, his arm talent has been viewed as the Cowboys’ saving grace. With Dallas putting subpar defense after subpar defense out on the field, Prescott has willed his way to a victory. But while his uncooperative defensive units have shouldered most of the blame throughout his Dallas tenure, as we look at their overall numbers, Romo’s Cowboys were a far worse group on that side of the ball.
In terms of points allowed per game, this is how Prescott’s Cowboys compared to Romo’s:
- 2016 defensive ranking: 5th
- 2017 defensive ranking: 13th
- 2018 defensive ranking: 6th
- 2019 defensive ranking: 11th
- 2020 defensive ranking: 28th
- 2021 defensive ranking: 7th
- 2006 defensive ranking: 20th
- 2007 defensive ranking: 13th
- 2008 defensive ranking: 20th
- 2009 defensive ranking: 2nd
- 2010 defensive ranking: 31st
- 2011 defensive ranking: 16th
- 2012 defensive ranking: 24th
- 2013 defensive ranking: 26th
- 2014 defensive ranking: 15th
As illustrated by the numbers, Romo was often handcuffed by tenuous defensive units but still managed to put together a better regular season record through his first four seasons, registering 38 wins against only 17 losses. Prescott, on the other hand, compiled a respectable record of 40 wins against 24 losses.
Defensively hampered squads or not, Romo, more times than not, carried a declining bunch to more success than Prescott ever could.
#2 Prescott benefited from more offensive help
For nearly a decade, Tony Romo trotted onto the field at a decided disadvantage. As his fellow quarterback contemporaries had the luxury of throwing to some of the game’s best receivers, Romo was often given an offensively inept squad. Sure, he had the likes of Dez Bryant, Terrell Owens, DeMarco Murray, and Jason Witten at his disposal, but outside of Witten, Romo’s offensive pieces were transient in Dallas.
In total, the former beloved Dallas Cowboy has thrown the ball to only three receivers that were named to the Pro Bowl. He was also given only one All-Pro running back. Prescott, conversely, has had the luxury of playing with otherworldly talents every Sunday.
With five total Pro Bowlers that he’s shared the field with, including four receivers and one running back, Prescott has been given far more help in a shorter amount of time. Still, even with a bolstered offensive lineup, it hasn’t led to more success. In three of the past five seasons, the Cowboys have failed to record double-digit victories. They’ve also come up incredibly short in the postseason, winning a total of two games during Prescott’s six seasons.
#3 The weight of expectation
No matter how high the lofty expectations of Dallas Cowboys faithful fans, they were well aware of the weaknesses of their proud franchise. Lacking offensive and defensive weapons, Dallas once completed a brutal three-year stretch in which they registered identical 8-8 records.
Although AT&T Stadium’s fans were still fiery, loud, and passionately cheered for their homegrown squad, their Sunday afternoon losses were to be expected. This current iteration of the Cowboys, however, has carried a championship mystique, despite failing to achieve their sky-scraping goals.
A former All-Pro worthy running back Ezekiel Elliott, a newly turned Pro Bowl wide receiver in CeeDee Lamb, and two young defensive stalwarts in Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs have pushed the Cowboys’ expectations towards the stratosphere. When faced with countless barrages of questions from fans and media members alike, Romo would often smile before heading out onto the field to play the game of his life, despite being surrounded by inferior pieces in comparison to Prescott.
What would Tony Romo have done if he were given Prescott’s current star-studded lineup? Although we’ll never know, we have a feeling that his postseason record would be better than a meager 1-3, the current postseason record that Prescott has compiled.
Q. Who do you think is the better Dallas Cowboys quarterback?